A new study indicates that DNA may be a potent tool for exploring clean energy sources around the world.
Scientists from Stanford University conducted an experiment where they used nanoparticles embedded with synthetic DNA to track how the earth’s geothermal energy moves through underground fissures and cracks.
Typically, engineers introduce tracers into a geothermal field to map it to get a detailed understanding of the underlying geology and location of these fractures.
However, the information obtained is limited when it comes to finding a way to harness this energy, according to the university. The tracers are introduced at multiple sites in a large area, and can appear in other wells without any indication as to which well they originated from.
The team’s goal was to resolve this issue in their experiment by developing unique DNA tags that were fused between silica nanoparticles and a silica shell. Next, this concoction was injected into packed sand heated at different temperatures to gauge their survival rate.
“We were surprised to find that the particles could survive temperatures as high at 302 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees C), meaning that they could possibly survive the extreme environments of geothermal fields,” said first study author Yuran Zhang, a graduate student attending Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy, & Environmental Sciences.
Nanoparticles of this nature have been used to deliver medications, but Zhang added that incorporating DNA into this technique enabled improved tracking due to our genetic information consisting of an infinite number of sequences.
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the 41st Workshop on Geothermal Reservoir Engineering.
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